Why Democracy Always Fails

Something so hopelessly unfit for purpose should be confined entirely to satirical cabaret shows

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: the author

Imagine boarding a commercial airliner along with a few hundred other people. After taking your seat, you see some of your fellow-passengers standing up. Mostly these people are in the Business-First section, but there are one or two in the economy section where you’re sitting.

The people standing up begin to regale everyone with grandiose tales of how amazing they will be as a pilot (despite having no experience whatsoever, and not even knowing what function the various controls perform). They promise to fly the plane to marvelous destinations rich in sun, sand, and cheap sangria (despite having no idea whatsoever of the plane’s maximum range, nor any idea about the location of possible destination airports).

You notice some of your fellow-passengers becoming excited, bellowing loudly their belief in one candidate or another and how their preferred candidate is going to save the airplane, make the airplane great again, take back control of the airplane, and so on.

You also note that out of the two-hundred-and-eighty passengers present, the two who actually know something about aviation are trying to explain to everyone else that the wild promises being made by the standing people are utterly unrealistic and impossible to fulfil. But no one is listening to these two because their explanations are too complicated and don’t have the pleasing zing of the three-word soundbites being proffered by the leading candidates.

You realize that because the vast majority of your fellow-passengers know nothing whatsoever about any aspect of aviation, they simply vote for whoever promises them the nicest fantasy or has the most amusing anecdote or happens to remind them of their beloved Uncle Bob.

Eventually, by means of a show of hands, one of the standers is elected to fly the aircraft. He (and it’s almost always a he) then selects a few of his friends to help fly the aircraft despite the fact none of his friends have any better idea how to manage the task than he does himself.

It’s not difficult to imagine the outcome of this process.

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.